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At SXSW, the bands played on.

At SXSW, the bands played on. (photo)

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The SXSW Music Festival opened with a jolt on Wednesday: Big Star frontman Alex Chilton had died of an apparent heart attack. From that point until the end of the fest, when Big Star’s closing showcase at the hallowed blues club Antone’s turned into an all-star tribute to Chilton, songs in sets near and far were dedicated to the man who brought us wistful, right-of-passage classics like “I’m in Love with a Girl” and “Thirteen.”

Yes, the bands played on. There were a handful of older acts getting back into game. Courtney Love’s Hole slithered onstage after a ten-year hiatus, new members intact, to polarize crowds and promote her forthcoming album “Nobody’s Daughter.” Roky Erickson, whose psych-rock band the 13th Floor Elevators was the stuff of Austin in the late ’60s, returned to the fold bolstered by the music of fellow locals Okkervil River, in support of their collaborative album “True Love Cast Out All Evil.” And then there was the Queen of Rock, Wanda Jackson, to whom Jack White is giving the Loretta Lynn treatment.

03232010_sxswmusic2.jpgBeyond that, indie bands Surfer Blood and Titus Andronicus scored lots of ink. Obscure, old-school punk band Death made good on critics’ praises. Sisters Martie Maguire and Emily Robison, who with Natalie Maines are the Dixie Chicks, debuted their own band, Court Yard Hounds. Timber Timbre, the moniker for Taylor Kirk, upped the ante on singer-songwriter fare. Drive-By Truckers, Band of Horses and Broken Social Scene played an incredible triple bill. And Demolished Thoughts, a super-band comprised of Thurston Moore, J. Mascis and Andrew W.K., blitzed through a run of ’80s hardcore covers.

This year’s SXSW Music Festival had more than 13,000 registrants. Many left with a better sense of the word “pop-up.” There were pop-up shows, including a spontaneous lunchtime gig in a parking garage on Red River Street featuring Broken Bells, an experiment between the Shins’ James Mercer and Gnarls Barkley’s Danger Mouse that failed to live up to expectations. There were also pop-up shops. Jack White’s Third Man Records set up a storefront at the gourmet hotdog restaurant Frank to push vinyl and White Stripes paraphernalia. White’s wife Karen Elson, a musician in her own right, played there Saturday night, allowing at least the possibility of a White sighting.

Free day shows have become the norm for a new generation of festival-goer incapable of paying upwards of $500 for a badge to the 24-year-old festival. It’s at these day parties where the ratio of music, accommodations and booze can turn into magic, like at this year’s Nonesuch Records party at Hotel Saint Cecilia. (You may recall Nonesuch as the label that rescued Wilco’s “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.”) Standing out on the bill was the Low Anthem, a sepia-toned four-piece out of Providence, whose debut album “Oh My God, Charlie Darwin” is an elegant affair. Their four-part harmonies pierced the breeze, on a tail of clarinet, bowed saw and pump organ. One new song, about going to the apothecary to pick up the cure, featured a maraca made out of pill bottles.

The Village Voice Media day party was another scene altogether, body upon body in pursuit of Facebook friends. But that ceased when London trio the XX, playing in support of their narcotic, vocal-volleying self-titled album, blanketed the crowd with a layer of black velvet cascaded over with electro beats. Bassist Oliver Sim knew all about the buzz behind his band. He told the audience “thank you” at the end of the song “VCR” before they even had a chance to clap.

03232010_sxswmusic3.jpgCarolina Chocolate Drops played one of two distinctly excellent day-show parties in South Austin on the final day of the fest. The three-piece, performing at Jovita’s, mined old-timey tradition with determined authenticity. They opened with “Chased Old Satan Through the Door,” blazing with violin, banjo and foot-stomping. They followed it with square dance and Charleston numbers, accented with jug-blowing and wild dancing. On “Cindy Gal,” from their debut album “Genuine Negro Jig,” Dom Flemons played cow rib bones, prefaced with instructions on how to play ’em: hold one tight and let the other one smack it.

And then, in the hours leading up to the Alex Chilton tribute, Quasi stabbed through the suddenly frigid temperatures with their fortysomething slacker rock on the back patio of Home Slice Pizza. The Portland band has been trucking on and off for nearly 20 years, predating Sleater-Kinney, the band drummer Janet Weiss is most remembered for playing in. Weiss provided thunderous rhythm for ex-husband Sam Coomes’ tales of grown-up woes, powerfully conveyed on songs like “Repulsion” and “Little White Horse” from the band’s killer new album “American Gong.” The late, great Chilton would have appreciated their candor.

[Photos by Kathy Hoinski]


Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.


Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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GIFs via Giphy

Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:


The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.


They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!


Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.


Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.